Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma knew about developments at his Nkandla homestead, former ANC MP Ben Turok said on Wednesday.
The ruling party's dismissal of the controversy that haunted its election campaign masked a deeper unease, he told the Cape Town Press Club.
"Nkandla is of course a big issue for the ANC," Turok said
"There is a great deal of uneasiness... It was a shambles."
He said Zuma was patently aware of the details of the R246m project because he complained about slow progress and suggested changes.
"The president knew about it because he was there and he complained. He said 'please don't put windows there and put them there and there'."
Turok said the loss of more than 3% of the ANC's vote share in last week's elections would prompt introspection in the party.
The opposition, however, failed to understand that "African" voters felt a deep loyalty to the party that outweighed disapproval on any one particular issue.
"The ANC is your family, it is neighbour, your mother, your father. Zuma can do various things and Mbeki can do various things, it is not that important. The people in the townships love the ANC and there is no cross about that."
Turok predicted, however, that the 25 MPs the Economic Freedom Fighters will send to Parliament after winning 6% of votes in the election will provide riotous opposition on what he deems the ANC's weakest policy point - the economy.
"If they are all there, wearing red shirts and making a noise, I feel sorry for Max Sisulu or whoever the Speaker is."
He described the EFF as having "no programme... no brains" and said they stepped into the gap that the National Union of Metalworkers of SA left by not forming a breakaway workers' party ahead of the vote.
Turok announced his retirement from Parliament, where he served as co-chair of the ethics and members' interest committee, in February.
He helped to write the chapter on economics in the Freedom Charter and has been a vocal left-wing critic of the pro-market policies the ANC adopted after taking power.
He said felt truly stung when he faced disciplinary steps after he refused to vote for the protection of state information bill.
Turok recalled how, in his defence, former Cabinet minister Pallo Jordan had warned ANC leaders that with the measure it had alienated the whole of the South African media.
"He said: 'Even in the darkest days of apartheid there was always at least one editor who was sympathetic to the ANC. Not now'."